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Growing Up

Jean-Marc Nattier: Portrait of a Young Woman Painter

Portrait of a Young Woman Painter – Jean-Marc Nattier

Q: What’s more public & awkward than adolescence?
A: A transgender person’s second adolescence.

I failed my first adolescence as a teen, and a lot of people in my life have been forced to experience me as I’ve been going through my second one.

For most people this awkward time of change happens when expected, and there are allowances for the learning, the changes, and the mistakes. When a trans person is forced into “remedial” adolescence, it’s often at a time in life when they are already (reasonably) mature and functioning adults…

…So, what’s it like to be a 54 year old adult trying to move through a kind of accelerated “girlhood” into womanhood? It’s difficult, it’s amazing, parts are fun, it’s exhausting, it’s insecure, it’s bothersome to others, it’s often embarrassing. Suddenly, I am after decades as an adult, *not* “acting my age,” because I am trying to re-process what did not go right the first time. It’s a “phase,” exacerbated by a second-hormonal-puberty, and I’m growing out of it.

What prompted me to write this is some uncomfortable indirect feedback I recently received. It was difficult in that it revealed that there are ways I’ve wearied people with “girliness” that is unbecoming of my age. Ouch…BUT it’s a *good* discomfort, because it shows that I am past the point where I need to assert my femininity, and I can just “get on with life” as a woman – I’m past the point of needing to prove this to anyone…

And I *truly apologize* to those I’ve so wearied, and *appreciate* everyone’s patience with me!

…There is a sense in which I’ve suspected this for a while, but sometimes it helps to see it in “black & white,” for someone to put a “fine-point” on the issue.

In another way, the feedback was *very validating* to me: it is a way of saying “I graduate” *IF* I’m willing to “step-off the stage with my diploma.” This work is done; the walk-beyond into “post-graduate” life is what remains.

This step isn’t so-much eliminating distracting behaviors as it’s recognizing that I’ve outgrown them. As with many trans people, my transition has been an exercise in extreme vulnerability, and for me, it is a phase that is ending. I’ve no need any longer to compensate for such vulnerability: my new wings have cured enough to fly upon…

The events of the last month or so have been pushing me through a period of rapid “tying-up-loose-ends” growth in more ways than simply the way I express myself to others. What has been revealed to me here is symbolic of what has been happening in “still waters” beneath, what is happening by God’s impetus and with God’s grace.

…The people who have given me this feedback have done me an *invaluable service*, for which I am *grateful*: they didn’t just tell me to “stop being a silly girl,” they reminded me that I can safely leave my girlish-phase behind because I’ve outgrown it as woman I have already become. I am *so blessed*, so blessed!!

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Sunday Outing

My hand

“Yes, these women’s hands” she said…

A cisgender woman I befriended at church a few months ago noticed I am unusual, but assumed that I was simply a tall woman of Scandinavian stock (which is largely true).

Sunday, I was driving her home from worship, and she made a comment in broken English saying “Renee, you did [such-and-such] as little girl?” I looked at her tenderly, shook my head as I gently said “Olga, I was never a little girl.” Her eyes widened: “What?! You boy then?!” With conviction, I spoke: “Not exactly Olga.” We were close to her house and as we turned the corner, I said “remember when I told you about my spouse and said you can ask me anything? Would you like to know more about who I am?”

Olga is a new US citizen, in her mid sixties and from Romania; she is kind-hearted, weather-beaten, deeply spiritual, and does not speak English well.

We stopped in her driveway, and I gently tried to explain, and then said, please let me show you, and I showed her my transitional video on my phone. She had difficulty understanding how this could be. As the different pictures of me changing drew closer to the present, she kept asking “is that you? Is that you?” and then about two-thirds through she would exclaim “that’s you! That’s you – I know your smile!”

…Then she took my hands saying…”don’t cry, don’t cry…”

She said “Renee! You are woman! If God not want you that way, you would not be. You still my sister! But don’t tell others, they no understand, no accept you. I will never say, this is your private life.”

It was a mind and heart changing experience for her. She never imagined that someone could change their sex, and she was grateful (and deeply impressed) that I was honest with her when she asked about my “girlhood.” (When she asked about my husband a month ago, I gently told her that I didn’t have a husband: my spouse is a woman, so she knew I was odd…and honest.) She then said that she had always had trouble understanding and sympathizing with gay and lesbian people, but now that she realizes she has a good friend who was a man and is now a woman, she believes God can do anything and it’s okay. She feels better about queer people now that she knows one personally.

Foreboding had held me as I anticipated the moment when it would be “time” to explain this part of myself to Olga. She had so much accepted me as as a sister, as any other woman (and it felt so wonderful to be accepted for myself). Would she reject me when I inevitably revealed myself more deeply to her? Blessedly it was another instance of love and mutual vulnerability sustaining a relationship.

Laughing she said “Renee! You got good boobies! You keep changing – get bigger hips and get shorter – then nobody even think anything odd about you woman.”

And still we giggle and touch as women do when we share things, and she is teaching me to care for a garden as I help her with English. She has already taught me of her compassionate soul, and we have grown together in faith.


I live “simply open,” which for me means that in casual encounters I am “just” a tall, boyish woman – but when people get to know me more intimately, the fact that I am a transgender woman becomes apparent in relaxed, natural, even winsome ways. Who I was is not dead, but has blossomed into who I am today: my past is my unique past; my present is here, and my future to come: I am a woman, a woman of transgender experience.

Audio
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Beautiful

“Beautiful” was written about and for me on my 49th birthday by my very dear friend Janet von Berky and her daughter Caitlin. Janet wrote the lyrics, then she and Caitlin wrote the music which Caitlin performed.

It’s about my struggle to accept the beauty that God has sown into my soul, and how I long to be the kind of person God finds lovely. And His promise to increase what He has already done both in my inner and outer self, now and in eternity. In our dance together, beauty is not merely for me, but mostly to be lavished to others as God loves them through me.

It was given at a very difficult time with God: we were working through the “appointment” about my gender issues that I had demanded of Him a decade previously, a “meeting” which I thought I would never have on this side of eternity. I was only beginning to understand that in the midst of our deeply intimate, often painful interactions, that He was fulfilling His promise to do a “New Thing.” To my wonder, I was being healed through my gender affirmation!

BEAUTIFUL

Beloved hid her face from me
And cried she wasn’t beautiful,
And would I make her beautiful
When I took her home?

I turned Beloved’s face to mine
And told her she was beautiful
And yes, I’d make her far more so
When I took her home.

Oh, Beloved, you are cherished,
You are beautiful!
And when you stand before me
With my radiance you’ll shine!
Oh, all my love for you is wild and it’s extravagant
Of all the good things granted you
The best is that you’re mine.

Beloved turned her face to mine
And let me hold her close to me,
The dance we danced was Beautiful
For all the world to see.

I turned Beloved’s face to smile
On many other dancers there
Together we will learn this dance
Until I take you home.


I cannot express the depth of gratitude I have for my Dearest Big Twin Sister Janet, a cisgender woman, whom God has used to help me work through these things, keep me focused on Him, and mentor me much as a sister and mother would help another woman.

In 1999, I began to understand why I was always so different: from the beginning, I knew I was not a boy, and in therapy for clinical depression, as things became *safe* to deal with, it became obvious that I am transgender: transsexual, maybe intersex. In this year of intensive work on myself in therapy, I started to transition without even realizing it, and toward the end, I self-medicated with female hormones as a way to confirm my gender. God and I were working together with this, and while I came to be convinced that God had no problem with transgender people, or for them making whatever changes they need to make: God gently impressed on me that my wife would not be able to manage sex change surgery. In my deep frustration, hurt and (yes) anger and tears, I believed that I would never be able to transition in any way. I gave-up my “right” to surgery, and even more difficult my “right” to hormones (I poignantly and urgently knew female hormones were right for me by this time). AND so, I demanded an “appointment,” with God, as-if He was a doctor. I wanted to know why I am transsexual, and why this hurt so much, and why I could not fix the problem. (He didn’t seem to be fixing it!). I assumed that I would have to die first, before I would have this appointment. Then I threw myself back into repression, only this time, I knew what I was repressing. Most days I wanted to die.

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“Other” in the Spirit

Brettany Renee Blatchley (aka Hippie-Girl) 2014-08-27

This will be a long, difficult road for many of us: queer and straight…

When the “other” kind of person turns-out to be someone who is respected, liked, loved, then who that person is will collide with who that person is assumed to be. This is a God-moment when the seeds of reconciliation or more vehement rejection are sown.

…God has been leading me to connect with various Christian congregations in my area, growing and developing a godly, sisterly relationship with them. Because I live “simply open” about who and what I am, at some point when our relationship deepens, the fact that I am a married Christian woman of transgender experience will become apparent in natural, relaxed even winsome ways – in God’s time…

…Last Wednesday, at an “agape” potluck and Bible study, it was “time” – my status and authority as a transgender person became very relevant to the discussion and I gently made my disclosure, acting in great vulnerability from a position of spiritual strength…

This Sunday was a good time of worship. Much was preached, sang and prayed about how THIS church, this part of Christ’s Body was especially attuned and welcoming to people on the margins (people “other churches” reject) – we were admonished. “They will come here for Jesus’ love: be prepared!” They did not realize that I had already been among them as an “unpresentable” part of The Body. I was cautiously optimistic!

…Last evening, I again joined the “Agape” group with my spouse. We ate and socialized, when ask how my spouse and I were related, I replied in joyful truth. Moments later, I was called into the pastor’s office along with the Bible study leader in whose group I had “come-out…”

I learned that I had caused a stirring in the entire leadership for most of the week.

…It was a long and good discussion where I was very much “on trial,” my relationship with Jesus, my relationship with sin, my understanding of the Bible and its authority, my transgender nature and transition: but in the end, I was essentially excommunicated – told (without Biblical support) that being transgender was illegitimate and living (as myself) a woman was in their eyes: “sexual immorality.” I gently pointed-out the arrogance of assuming absolute correctness on the issues yet being unwilling to go to God about the possibility that they could be wrong. I also gently point-out the hypocrisy of treating my “sin” as in need of special attention, including the breaking of fellowship.

I commended the pastor on at least speaking civilly with me about this (some won’t); he commended me for my reputation there as being a very well-spoken, intelligent, honest and kind person with a gentle servant heart. His prescription for me was to “repent.” Specifically, “repent” meant for me to renounce my (God given) gender identity, live as a man, and “embrace my masculinity.” Of course to “live as a man” would require me to have a sex change, and I assured them that unless God made this demand crystal clear by the conviction of His Spirit, I would make no-such recantation…

…So we parted – I suggested that we pray together and embrace as we concluded. I led this prayer, and we left with hugs: fellow believers who nonetheless could not be reconciled at this time, maybe not on this side of eternity?

It was hard for me, building a relationship with a congregation, coming to know people and *be known*, offering myself to potentially be hurt…for them to see Jesus in me, requires significant time, sacrifice and connection. But that connection made, makes the sundering of the relationship – the relationshipS – all the more painful. That was my pain last night.

God has led me to be one of His agents of change, agents of love, as one of His “scandalous” people – His daughter, a “woman with a past” and a present.

AND there are other congregations and relationships, and more faith to grow…Dearest Lord, my Love, please give me strength – glorify Yourself in me.

Blessings & Joy!!

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Interlude

1137px-Van_Gogh_-_Starry_Night_-_Google_Art_Project

Starry Night, Van Gogh

It is dark…

The waning moments of dusk flee the day’s weariness.

I turn the key and gently push into THERE.

Padding silently and gently,
Every fibre taut in growing
Holiness Their.

And like Moses who was, and is,
I step before God’s expansive
Presence.

Where in bare feet alone, my sin already atoned,

Lit only by the flames of my heart,
I sit in deafening silence before a throne.

And where it is low, I rest below,
Down where feet in their work-play, they go.

HERE for moments, maybe ages;
God is THERE and THERE is NEAR…

And my heart is hushed…

What is worship?

There is a piano in the dark;
My ears guide me to its place.

Cold pedals kiss my feet hello,
And on her keys, my fingers find their place.

It matters no,
Where my hands they go, as they begin to sing,

For I do not play piano – she plays with me!

And in the darkness our chords ring.

Gentle notes caressed, fill in THERE,
Ephemeral, Infinite, Instant, Eternal there.

Tears and nameless melody flow…and God KNOWS…

What is worship?

More ages pass, bright darkness fills;

Warm grow the pedals, and tremble, her wood thrills.

Deep chords vibrate, high notes ring;
Turn, turn intertwined,

And still they sing!

And they are themselves, alone for Thee,

For I do not play piano – she plays with me!

We dance before God:
Wood-steel, feet-fingers: in blessed lowliness revealed!

But no light to see, that God is near,
As my heart is bared: but not in fear.

And Love is here…

What is worship?

Time is spent, eternity alight,
And with final, tender notes, we kiss goodnight.

Then up in deafened and darkened silence, I pad to the door,

Leaving THERE…out into THERE.

And into the night, I behold Heaven. Aware.

And now God plays to me, a glorious aire:

Of night sounds, and night stars, and a warm breeze of air,

And my still soul bare, in silence there…

And THERE is HERE, and God is NEAR…

Then I ask again:

What is worship?

(B.R. Blatchley, Autumn 2011)


In years past, I had the key to a house of worship near home, and I would often let myself into the dark sanctuary, and in bare feet, I would “play” the grand piano before God in awe and in adoration.

A great many trans folk have rich, deep spiritual lives, sharing with trans people throughout the ages, a mystical wont…

…For me, I could not have survived my early life, gender dysphoria and transition to life as a woman without my relationship with Jesus. God pours a Niagara Falls of grace over me constantly to help me through this, to endure my body (and also for my family, to endure me). Though some, even in God’s family, have rejected me, Jesus never did. He calls me Beloved and asked me to call Him my Love.